Monday, November 7, 2011

The Dollhouse

The Dollhouse
by alisa dollar

The Dollhouse
            I walked through the door, immediately knowing I’d taken a wrong turn.
            Looking around, there were those in a variance of ages ten years below mine to ten years above.   Vietnam.  Funny how eras and wars have distinct markings.  This particular war often wears disillusionment - like an old glove, misshapen, frazzled and well worn...yet durable and still in use.  Eyes warily observed my entrance.  No hearty welcome, no ambivalence in acknowledgment of my presence, just a thorough and guarded examination.  Oppression overwhelming me, I turned to escape, find my proper path, anywhere but here-yet another trait of my era.
            In route to safer ground, I noticed the dollhouse.
            Elegant and magnificently built, trimmed to perfection, brimming with exquisite furnishings, it sat on a pedestal-like table near the center of the room.  Drawn to its beauty, I commented on its craftsmanship, immediately evoking an almost animated conversation concerning the dollhouse and its history.  The man, Karl, who seemed to be the head of design, walked me in and out of every room, missing not one nook or cranny.  The love, the art, the painstaking patience in building from top to bottom, inside
and out was evident in the workmanship as well as the voices of its creators.  Their excitement contagious, I found myself wondering why I had been too busy to build a dollhouse for the pure joy of accomplishment.
            It was then I looked around the room seeing multiple arts and crafts in varying degrees of completion from unopened boxes to displays on shelves and walls.   Dianne, the social worker and taskmaster of the group, proudly informed me the dollhouse had
placed second in a national contest.  Suddenly awareness unfolded - I was in the craft

room of the regional VA hospital.  These veterans hadn’t been too busy, as I had claimed for myself.  They were busy rebuilding their lives in a restorative manner.  The construction of the dollhouse, furnishing through and through, from wall, to floor, windows to furniture - starting from a box - ending with a home, symbolized the healing energy and sometimes silent comradery of my peer.  Home.
            Yes, the marks of ‘Nam vary, as do with most wars.  This war carries more emotional scars perhaps than others.  Blemishes caused by unrest among our own rather than those on whose soil we fought.  Persons raced through my head - past and present.  Bill left home a young innocent at eighteen, joining the Army to make his mark and came home a brother changed - and yes - forever marked.  He addresses his service simply by his quiet demeanor, choosing to bear his wounds within.  Ted, whom I know only by his memory, served his tour by way of Air Force, returning and giving more by nursing in a veterans’ hospital.  He applied his service by continuing the cause through his profession, only to be taken by that silent but deadly agent, we cautiously
call orange.  Glenn, served as a Marine, with a flair characteristic of his very nature:  “I’m here; I’m ready; Let’s go.”  He confronts his service through excellent writing skills, thereby filtering knowledge to those unknowing.  The vets surrounding the dollhouse
bear the earmark of being unkindly labeled and categorized a group deemed less worthy than veterans of other wars.
            My own marks lay heavy within my soul, burdening my spirit.
            You see, I am not a veteran.  I found myself to be one of the label makers of this group.  I strove for understanding.
            I pulled and tugged in my quest for understanding of why some served without question while others balked to the point of denouncing the very citizenship and freedom others fought to maintain.  In my youth, I never questioned my brother’s wisdom and loyalty.  However, my blindness to his cause didn’t allow his fear to reach my own intellect.  That I loved him was absolute.  That I feared for him was undisputed.  When he boarded the bus for boot camp and eventually Viet Nam, the warring factions of right and wrong began the turmoil inside my heart.  The anger inside me quieted in respect to his service, although I still didn’t understand his plight.   His silence squelched my questions.  My pursuit to understanding yet unfulfilled.
            Years down the road, Ted’s widow came into my life.  Her husband a Viet Nam vet, had proudly served and would have done so again.  Why?  I wondered, but didn’t ask.  Understanding evaded still.  I so respect her composed acceptance of his life and eventual death - caused in part by what some still ignore - Agent Orange.  He may not
have died in battle on foreign soil, but he certainly died loyal to his beliefs and his country.  The pride in his widow’s eyes mix in contradiction with her silent grief.  Balance.  Understanding through his memory slowly began to seep through.
            As a writer, I have had the privilege of meeting Glenn, an ex-Marine.  Today, he uses the training from Viet Nam in his profession of security.  More importantly, he has the ability to write and applies his experiences vividly within his novels.  As a reader of his works-in-progress, dawning of what these young men and women faced encompassed me and I found myself conscience-stricken.  Though fiction, I sensed
fervor and passion within his words.  His storytelling hastened my trip to grasping what I’d been seeking.
            It took getting lost in the craft room of the VA hospital for this knowledge to come full circle.  These men and women, unknown to me, started to open the doors.      Faces began to have names--Karl, Dianne, Gregg, Al, Don–with more added each day.    I found myself wanting the very thing they sought - acceptance...and understanding.
            A frequent visitor these days, I am still learning.  Still trying to give back what I stole not only from myself, but their labeling.  I am trying to give back what I took.
            The dollhouse has become a symbol in my eyes of what it’s all about.   Home. Whether a dollhouse, family home or America.  It has a right to be.  A right to stand.   A right to be beautiful.   Most importantly, a right to be free.

Veteran's Day 2010

A Dollar’s Worth
By Alisa Dollar

We forget many times to be thankful and grateful for the privilege of freedom.

Freedom is definitely not a given.

I’ve had an easy life. Even in times I thought I couldn’t get through another nanosecond; I did.

I have a slew of friends and family who, over the years, have hindered, helped, and hovered over me and mine. I’ve done the same for those I love and for many I don’t know.

It’s an unspoken grace received through generations who’ve come before us, teaching it’s better to give than receive.

Much of that is breaking down and though I don’t understand why it’s happening, I do understand it’s up to me to be a reminder there are people in this world who care.

It’s a gift to be able to care and to receive care without retribution.

We live in a country still free to say, act, and be---more often than not---badly.

When Veteran’s Day comes around each year, I grow more appreciative of those who serve in the military.

I understand better each day that my freedom is derived directly from someone else giving up time in their life to serve. Even if there’s not a conflict or war, the threat is always there.

Service men and women have been doing this for years.

 They are trained. They are willing. They are volunteers.

They are brave. They are needed.

They are not rewarded as they should be.

No one likes, wants, or desires conflict which can escalate into war.

I don’t. I don’t know anyone who does.

I’d hate to go to work every day not knowing who my boss is going to be and who his/her boss is going to be and who above them is going to make the rules that will trickle all the way down the chain and could, would, and probably will, change on a daily basis because of politics back home.

These men and women deal with a lot more than actual war.

They deal with uncertainty in their job description, their personal life, and warring emotions within.

We can support military and families by checking local services who deal with specific needs. We can love family and friends with extra care who serve.

The best is to publicly thank them for their service in the past and now.

America is beautiful because of our military.

Thank you!

Veteran's Day 2009

A Dollar’s Worth
By Alisa Dollar

When I began a Veteran’s Day remembrance for 2009, I wasn’t planning on changing what I’d started. Because of the senseless massacre last week at Ft. Hood, I changed my original thoughts.

It’s come to me that we, as Americans, were taught well the manners bestowed us by our heritage and upbringing, no matter what religion, ethnicity or politics within each family.

We’ve become so “nice” that we’re the breeding ground of someone telling us we can’t discipline because it might hurt someone’s feelings. We can’t play certain sports because so-in-so isn’t able to play and feelings might be hurt. We’ve changed grading in schools because we don’t want to hurt feelings.

I want to interject something—my feelings are hurt.

I get a form of waterboarding every time I go to the dentist. Sorry but that’s what happens when you have a cavity. It stands to reason that a cavity of society could withstand water. We have to be “nice” and now there’s a chance those who terrorized our country on 9/11 may be out amongst us. What? Cavities need to be fixed, not let go to rot further.


I cannot begin to express the concern and sorrow I feel for the gentleman who took it upon himself to take out a few of his fellow soldiers for whatever reasoning he possessed at the time.

Our soldiers at this time are put into harm’s way when deployed to war torn countries to defend the freedoms we take for granted. We now desperately cling to those freedoms slipping one by one.

Veterans and current military are supposed to be safe on base. They are supposed to be able to mill about and take care of business and their loved ones. They are supposed to be ready to go and take care of America’s welfare.

They are not supposed to be blindsided on base by one of their own.

I only know what I’ve read about the person who decided fate for others. For me, it’s come to a point that religion, ethnicity, and politics are kaput. These soldiers and civilians deserve justice.

Not everyone will agree and that’s okay. We’re Americans. We’re still free.

Thanks to all military branches, past and present. I love the right to write what I feel and am grateful to those who’ve gone above and beyond to preserve an America I love.

Thanksgiving 2010

A Dollar’s Worth
By Alisa Dollar

It’s Thanksgiving again. I think time flies when you’re having a good time. Time flies when you’re having a bad time, it’s just in slow motion.

The reality is time flies faster as we age. So it’s really flying fast for me.

I’m being a good girl this year. It’s the first Thanksgiving in five years that I haven’t had a major surgery and I’m actually looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I bought all the stuff for Thanksgiving even though it will just be husband and me. Oh and Max. He’s thankful too.

Husband says, “Why did you buy all that?”

I deflect by saying we’re having ham, not turkey.

He says we don’t need that. Meaning we’re trying to diet. I turn my back while putting away the goodies. He simply doesn’t understand “he” is dieting; I am playing like I’m dieting.

“I bought fake food, so don’t get all huffy about it.”

“Fake food?”

“You know the pre-everything---dressing, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole and a new corn casserole.” I added, “The ham however is the real deal.”

While he picked up one fake frozen casserole to read the label, he comments under his breath that a fake pig might have less sodium than these casseroles.

Aren’t wives supposed to read those labels? I think they’re hazardous to one’s health. This is Thanksgiving for Pete’s sake, who cares what’s in them?

Trying to remain calm in my first year of being happy about the holidays with workable knees, shoulders and without a doctor or physical therapist harping on me, I count to ten in the only three languages I know how to count to ten – English, Spanish and German.

I for one am glad these local companies and throughout the U.S. put together these packages so I won’t have to have shovels to clear out the mess I make doing it all myself!

So what is a little sodium?

I’m on the verge of getting into his haughty little face, pointing my finger, telling him he hadn’t offered to prepare anything for Max and me.

Instead I just grabbed the casserole; put it and the rest into the freezer in the garage so he wouldn’t be nosing around the kitchen.

He’ll forget about that sodium when all the aromas hit his nostrils on Thanksgiving.

I’m sure of it.

Happy Thanksgiving!